Former Gatorade Nevada Player of the Year now ‘Jammin’ with the Washington Huskies

Posted: November 14, 2014 in General
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University of Washington women's soccer team plays Oregon State University

Former Arbor View standout McKenzie Karas is now a junior, starting for the University of Washington.

By W.G. Ramirez

Washington women’s soccer coach Lesle Gallimore remembers recruiting McKenzie Karas, the standout soccer player who starred at Arbor View and was named Nevada’s Gatorade Player of the Year her sophomore season.

In fact, she remembers her when she was a goalkeeper for her 14-and-under club team, not to mention when she filled in as a placekicker for Arbor View’s football team, which needed someone with a strong leg who could drive the ball.

Karas was quite the diverse athlete leading up to her college career.

But more than anything, Gallimore knows her as a “funny, outgoing, loose kind of kid you want on your team.”

“She makes the atmosphere she’s around that much better,” Gallimore said Tuesday during a phone interview from Seattle.

Gallimore and the Huskies are hoping the lovable junior defender affectionately known as “Jammer” will help make the environment a winning one, when Washington hosts Rider in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s College Cup, Friday night at 7 p.m.

For college soccer enthusiasts, call it November Madness.

And Karas has found a productive role that helped the Huskies earn the No. 4 seed in their region this year.

“Over the last month and a half, two months, she’s shown us what a great college player she can be and has worked her way into a starting role,” Gallimore said. “We’re excited about her progress and she is finally seeing and feeling her progress. She’s been resilient, worked hard and earning significant time now.”

University of Washington women's soccer team plays Oregon State University

Washington defender McKenzie Karas was named 2010 Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year.

It hasn’t been easy, though, as Karas overcame a torn ACL and nagging injuries since her senior year at Arbor View. Just days before signing her national letter-of-intent, she went down in a game and was finished for the season. Gallimore said she never flinched, and never even though about reneging on Karas’ scholarship offer. One, because she knows the type of individual she was dealing with, and two, because she has a conscious.

“I have to sleep with myself at night,” Gallimore said. “At the end of the day, it’s an injury. We recruited her hard and we stuck by her. The timing … there was just no way we were going to flip flop on our offer. That’s not the way we operate.”

In exchange for that type of loyalty, Karas worked her way back on to the field, battling tougher, better and more experienced players in front of her the past two years and eventually proving herself and not only earning the respect of her coaches, but her teammates as well.

University of Washington women's soccer team plays Oregon State University

McKenzie Karas will help lead Washington in the opening round of the 2014 Women’s College Cup, at home vs. Rider. The game can be seen online, beginning Friday at 7 p.m.

 

Karas said the transition from high school to college was already going to be difficult, but acclimating with a torn ACL didn’t help.

“The first year was tough because with the injury, I couldn’t prove to them what I could do on the field,” Karas said. “Being comfortable and being myself on the field is really tough in college, it’s a whole different ball game. Being able to be a voice on the field, without people knowing who I was, I was timid and tense my freshman year. But you have to come in and make a whole new name for yourself. Nobody cares you’re the Gatorade Player of the Year. You have to work for that spot on the field in college, nothing is guaranteed.

“Now I feel really comfortable with my team. I’ve grown not only as a woman, but as a soccer player at this level. My mindset has been at getting better every day. The transition was hard, but it being challenging, has made me the player I am today.”

Gallimore said ‘that player’ is someone she can put on the field and count on being extremely formidable, one that gives her goalkeeper confidence while she’s prowling in front of opponents.

“You can’t have a great team without great training kids, and Jammer fits right in there with that,” Gallimore said. “She’s always been a great and enthusiastic person both on and off the field. There’s just something about her personality that stands out and makes her a winner.”

NOTE: Karas scored the lone goal in Washington’s win over Rider on Friday, leading the Huskies to the second round of the Women’s College Cup. UW plays Missouri next, as the Tigers knocked off Kansas 3-1 in the first round.

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